Above: Video of Not at Home at the NCAD Gallery, Dublin Fringe Festival 2017. An image from the run at Fringe in September by Babs Daly.
Ever heard of Grace Dyas? You should have. Her recent production Not At Home won Best Production at last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival – and could soon be coming to a town near you. Patrick McCusker caught up with Grace yesterday to find out more and hear about their fundraising campaign to take it on the road.
For those of our readers who haven’t heard of it, how would you describe Not At Home?
Not At Home is a durational project by myself and Emma Fraser and the idea of it is to gather the stories of the women who travel abroad for abortions and to highlight the reality of our restrictive abortion laws and to connect women who’ve traveled in solidarity.
So it’s three kinds of parts. An online archive where women contribute their story – notathome.ie. Those stories are made visible in a performance installation.
The first version of it we did on Thomas Street at NCAD. We had performers perform the women’s stories out onto the street. We had an amazing confluence of people – the Dublin Fringe Festival, the art world, but also normal people came to see it.
The third part is called the Recovery Room. This installation is only available to women who’ve traveled. They can see it themselves, it’s kind of an evening of solidarity and shared experience. Many women have never spoken to anyone about the journey – it’s very cathartic for them to connect with people who’ve gone on the same journey.
So much of your previous work has been tied in with very specific venues, community activism and residencies. What aspects of taking it on tour to a very different audience are you most interested in?
Yeah I suppose that’s a really good question. In an urban centre, It’s remarkable that we’re doing it, but it’s quite usual that we’d be doing it in the streets or people are used to the Fringe. I think in a rural context it’ll be really different. I’m really excited by the unpredictability of it.
I’m really excited about the reactions to the material and to opening up the conversation about abortion rights, because I know that one of our intentions is that if we open up the conversation about women having to travel at a human level, it makes a big difference, rather than if you just hear back from figures or just hear back from politicians shouting about it. If you hear a real woman’s experience, it will shift your perspective. It’ll be interesting to see how perspectives might shift in a rural context as opposed to an urban context.
Are there any places in Ireland where you’re particularly excited about taking Not At Home – for example places with an interesting theatre scene or where there hasn’t been anything like this in a while?
I think we’re more motivated when we’re choosing the locations by places where there isn’t a lot of strong community campaigning either way. You know , where there aren’t a lot of people engaged in the issue, or places that aren’t that political. I don’t know how you’d measure that, but it’s as much about activism as art to us. It’s not just about introducing people to theatre as introducing them to these stories.
The last time you spoke to rabble, you mentioned that “often the setup of how art should work doesn’t cater for activism very well and it can be a challenge to carve out a base”. Have there been any situations since then where it’s been very rewarding to combine the two?
I think Not At Home is a good example of that – it’s very much a piece that’s grounded in activism. But’s it’s activism that’s compatible with an artwork as it’s not based on an agenda, but presenting lots of different perspectives and leaving you the space to make up your own mind.
Art can bring a different kind of perspective to things than politics or journalism, so come over here and hear these experiences. I think that was a really nice complement of the two. It was a good artwork that was also a feat of activism. It did exactly what it was supposed to do – it activated people’s responses as opposed to politicising them through campaigning in one way or another. And that was really rewarding.
At this moment in time, you are currently hosting a fundraising project to take Not At Home on tour. Would you mind telling our readers a little bit about this?
That’s the Bring These Stories Home project, so we can take these stories around rural Ireland. Basically, we’re just looking for funds so we can take people around the country and put them up. We have 9 days left and we’re trying to raise 9,000 so we can take this project around the country – everything helps, even if you can only give a fiver.
The fundraiser for Bring These Stories Home can be found here. Check it out.